Venezuela, US clash at OAS General Assembly

Venezuela and the United States clashed strongly Tuesday at the annual meeting of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in the Colombian city of Medellin.

Medellin, Colombia – Venezuela and the United
States clashed strongly Tuesday at the annual meeting of the General
Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in the Colombian
city of Medellin.

Both countries accused each other of harbouring terrorists, and
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro called US Deputy Secretary
of State John Negroponte a 'petty official with a criminal record.'

Maduro accused Negroponte of being 'responsible for disappearances, for
tortures and for deaths in Central America and in several parts of the

He further called him a 'character of the worst kind.'

Maduro's remarks followed comments by Negroponte on Monday calling upon
Venezuela to actively combat the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC) that 'have sought sanctuary' in its territory.

ambassador to the OAS, Hector Morales, said Tuesday that he had not
seen a Venezuelan condemnation of terrorism, and the Venezuelan
minister immediately replied that the US should extradite Luis Posada
Carriles to Venezuela if it is so concerned about combatting terrorism.

Posada Carriles, 80, is accused by Havana and Caracas of the
1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner which killed 73 people, and other
deadly attacks. He was convicted in Venezuela of being one of the
masterminds of the bombing, but escaped from prison after eight years
and joined US-directed covert counterinsurgency operations in Central

He entered the US illegally in 2005, and was
detained by US officials. But the US refused extradition requests from
Cuba and Venezuela, and in 2007 dropped charges against him on
immigration fraud.

Washington has labelled FARC a terrorist
group, and Morales had called upon Venezuela to comment on countries'
obligation to cooperate with their neighbours in fighting terrorists.

'If the US government says it wants to combat terrorism, let it
immediately capture Luis Posada Carriles and hand him over to
Venezuelan Justice so that his trial can conclude,' Maduro said.

He asked OAS 'to watch the conduct of the US government as it protects
a well-known, convicted and self-declared terrorist that has committed
tremendous crimes' against Venezuela.

'OAS governments must know that this terrorist is free, protected by the United States government in Florida,' he insisted.

Earlier, Maduro accused Negroponte of seeking to 'drive the wedge of
intrigue' at the Medellin gathering and to determine the agenda of the

The Venezuelan minister interpreted that the United
States was upset about a meeting that Maduro held Monday with Colombian
Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo, who sought to revamp bilateral ties
between the neighbours following a severe diplomatic crisis prompted by
a Colombian cross-border raid against a FARC camp in Ecuador.

'This petty official has no moral quality to talk about any issues in
our continent, and neither does the United States,' Maduro complained.

He went as far as to say the US government is 'behind the political
operation, the show that is being staged around the computers' found in
the raid on March 1. Colombian officials have alleged the computers
contain information tieing the Venezuelan government to FARC.

The raid has been a constant topic at the general assembly meeting, which started Sunday and was set to end Tuesday.

'We call on the conscience of the Colombian people, of the Colombian
government, to realize that behind this campaign there is only one
objective: to divide us, to confront us against each other, to create a
conflict,' Maduro said.